NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Colin Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against NFL team owners Sunday, alleging collusion to keep him from being signed by a team.

Many have claimed that the NFL owners have blackballed the former 49ers quarterback because of his social justice protest last season of kneeling during the national anthem.

Attorney Mark Geragos, who is representing Kaepernick in grievance proceedings, issued a statement that was quoted in full by CBS Sports Sunday night.

“We can confirm that this morning we filed a grievance under the CBA on behalf of Colin Kaepernick. This was done only after pursuing every possible avenue with all the NFL teams and their executives.

“If the NFL (as well as all professional sports leagues) is to remain a meritocracy, then principled and peaceful political protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. Such a precedent threatens all patriotic Americans and harkens back to our darkest days as a nation. Protecting all athletes from such collusive conduct is what compelled Mr. Kaepernick to file his grievance.

“Colin Kaepernick’s goal has always been, and remains, to simply be treated fairly by the league he performed at the highest level for and return to the football playing field.”

The NFLPA also released a statement quoted in full by CBS Sports.

“Our union has a duty to assist Mr. Kaepernick as we do all players and we will support him.

“The NFLPA has been in regular contact with Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives for the past year about his options and our union agreed to follow the direction of his advisors throughout that time.

“We first learned through media reports today that Mr. Kaepernick filed a grievance claiming collusion through our arbitration system and is represented by his own counsel. We learned that the NFL was informed of his intention to file this grievance before today.

“We are scheduling a call with his advisors for early this week.”

The movement to take a knee during the anthem was started by Kaepernick last season over his view of police mistreatment of black males. It had mostly subsided when President Donald Trump told a rally in Alabama last month that owners should get rid of players who kneel during the anthem.

The anthem issue flared again a week ago Sunday when Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor, left Indianapolis’ home game against San Francisco after about a dozen 49ers players knelt during the anthem.

A few hours later, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys became the first owner to declare publicly that he would bench any players for what he saw as disrespect of the American flag. Jones’ comments drew a swift response from union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who said Jones was contradicting assurances from Goodell that players could express themselves without reprisals.

Meanwhile, San Francisco safety Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate, has been kneeling during the anthem before games, including Sunday’s 26-24 loss at the Washington Redskins.

“I’ll have to follow up with him,” Reid said after the game. “It sure does seem like he’s being blackballed. I think all the stats prove that he’s an NFL-worthy quarterback. So that’s his choice and I support his decision. We’ll just have to see what comes of it.”

NFL owners will meet in the week to come to consider changes to a game manual that says players “should” stand during the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told club executives Tuesday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the anthem issue is dividing the league from its fans. He said the NFL needs “to move past this controversy.”

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the guidance will be “front and center on the agenda” when owners meet in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday.